house next door for rent

the house next door is now for rent, after undergoing extensive renovation. from what we could see, everything was painted and the entire kitchen – cabinets and all – was replaced.

if you’re looking for a rental in an incredibly desirable neighborhood close to downtown durham, and do not communicate with your family members exclusively via YELLING, do not leave your dog out in the rain chained up, do not verbally abuse your wife out in the yard (or anywhere, really), and do not hit your neighbors up for money to fix your car, please consider becoming my neighbor.

the bar is set pretty low; you will probably have neighbors on either side who will LOVE YOU if you meet the above criteria. plus you’ll fit right in with everyone else on the block.

i believe it’s a 2 bedroom, one bath. you can walk to the farmer’s market and you’re five minutes away from american tobacco, 9th street, and all kinds of great stuff.

pleeeeeaaaaase won’t you be my neighbor?

wedding intensive

spent the weekend on wedding stuff – which is kind of fun, really. i know a lot of people regard it as stressful, but to me it’s a happy thing and not really stressful.

saturday i met with a seamstress, we picked out some truly amazing fabrics and sketched an initial design for my garments. that was tons of fun.

today we met with two photographers – and we’re pretty sure we know which one we want. after that we stopped at a department store to look at flatware and dinnerware; after many years of good service i think it’s time for the pink fiestaware to go and be replaced by something less, uh, pink.

earlier in the week we also went for our tasting with the caterer which, since it’s the catering department in a nice hotel, was pretty fabulous and the best lunch either of us are likely to eat all year. here’s hoping it scales well.

the cake tasting is coming up soon, and we’ve got a few more things to pin down. well, okay, several more things.

Financial blogs I like

I’ve started reading two new-to-me financial blogs lately that I like pretty well.

* “The Simple Dollar”: – by a man who ran up massive credit card debt, had a total financial meltdown, cleaned it all up and is here to tell you about it.

* “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”: – a more novel approach than most financial blogs that emphasize frugality; this is aimed at 20-somethings who have some income (doesn’t have to be much), may have some credit card debt, and can take the opportunity to start getting on financial track while still young. He’s not into frugality, so long as you’re putting money each month into savings and retirement. He’s the only person I’ve seen who recommends starting a wedding fund before you know who you’re going to marry – and he’s right! weddings are shockingly expensive, and believe me, i wish i’d been socking away wedding money for years. he’s also very big on automation – having a certain amount taken out of each paycheck and put into savings, retirement, having bills paid automatically etc.

My favorite piece of financial advice I’ve read recently is about emergency funds, which is a big topic on every financial blog these days, I guess. They say the key to emergency funds is _liquidity._ So a home equity line or credit card can’t be seen in the same way – the bank could take those away from you. They could take away your savings account[1], too, but i think it’s less likely. So the thinking is, don’t use your savings to pay down your debt. Add to savings and pay down debt simultaneously, even if it means the debt gets paid down slower.

They’re both big on the high-interest savings accounts from ING, which is an online bank. I have to admit that internet banks still spook me, even if they are FDIC insured.

_[1] your funds can be frozen if the FBI is investigating you for certain things._

nearly there

we hope. the house goes on the market tomorrow. photos of the finished product forthcoming. bathroom renovators are finishing today and tomorrow, the boys are still up there but i am home.

the realtor seemed upbeat about the possibility of the house selling quickly. maybe she says that to everyone, i don’t know.

wish us luck. i’ll post the listing here when it’s available – if you know anyone looking to live in newport news, va, please pass it along. it’s a fantastic house.

Women’s Work

The women of Bletchley Park

During World War II, the British required large numbers of operators for their encryption-cracking machines. They recruited women to do this work:

“What is particularly significant about the women at Bletchley Park and its outstations was that they were recruited as the first machine operators and did not replace men, as was the usual procedure in other types of war work.

The first batch of WRNS were despatched as an experiment, although it was doubted at the time if they would be able to do the work. However, the women demonstrated clearly that they could operate the machines efficiently and they proved their worth in the war effort.”

— British Computer Society, “Women of Bletchley Park”


The ENIAC Programmers

The U.S. also relied on women during World War II to program the ENIAC to calculate trajectories. Female mathematicians were recruited for this work. They were not permitted to see the machine during their training, and there was no documentation, so they had to learn from engineering schematics. They were classified by the Army as “sub-professional”, and largely disregarded by both their male colleagues and history until recently. A few photos of the women working on the ENIAC do exist, however.


U.S. Army Photo – Standing: Ester Gerston, Crouching: Gloria Ruth Gorden

A fascinating interview with ENIAC programmer Jean Jennings Bartik aired on WUNC several months ago – unfortunately, the podcast seems to be gone.

The Voder Operators

Long fascinated by electronic music, I was intrigued by the Voder, a machine demonstrated at the 1939 World’s Fair by Bell Labs that could speak in something recognizable as a human voice.

“For all its gimmickry, the Voder was difficult to manage, a male persona literally played by women. Only trained telephone operators, the disembodied voices of the switchboard, had the hand-ear coordination to give the machine the social skills to work the room, a sort of remedial Speak & Spell exercise. A simple phrase (